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Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713

Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713

Автором Richard S. Dunn

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Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713

Автором Richard S. Dunn

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3/5 (1 оценка)
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611 pages
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Издано:
Dec 1, 2012
ISBN:
9780807899823
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Книге

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First published by UNC Press in 1972, Sugar and Slaves presents a vivid portrait of English life in the Caribbean more than three centuries ago. Using a host of contemporary primary sources, Richard Dunn traces the development of plantation slave society in the region. He examines sugar production techniques, the vicious character of the slave trade, the problems of adapting English ways to the tropics, and the appalling mortality rates for both blacks and whites that made these colonies the richest, but in human terms the least successful, in English America.

"A masterly analysis of the Caribbean plantation slave society, its lifestyles, ethnic relations, afflictions, and peculiarities.--Journal of Modern History

"A remarkable account of the rise of the planter class in the West Indies. . . . Dunn's [work] is rich social history, based on factual data brought to life by his use of contemporary narrative accounts.--New York Review of Books

"A study of major importance. . . . Dunn not only provides the most solid and precise account ever written of the social development of the British West Indies down to 1713, he also challenges some traditional historical cliches.--American Historical Review

Издано:
Dec 1, 2012
ISBN:
9780807899823
Формат:
Книге

Об авторе

Richard S. Dunn is director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Sugar and Slaves - Richard S. Dunn

Sugar and Slaves

Sugar and Slaves

The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713

BY RICHARD S. DUNN

Foreword by Gary B. Nash

Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, by the University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London

The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

is sponsored jointly by the College of William and Mary and the

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

© 1972 The University of North Carolina Press

Foreword © 2000 The University of North Carolina Press

All rights reserved

Manufactured in the United States of America

The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Dunn, Richard S.

Sugar and slaves: the rise of the planter class in the English

West Indies, 1624-1713 / by Richard S. Dunn; foreword by

Gary B. Nash,

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-8078-4877-8 (pbk.: alk. paper)

1. West Indies, British—Social life and customs. 2. Plantation

life—West Indies, British. 3. Slavery—West Indies, British.

4. West Indies—History—17th century. 5. Sugar—Manufacture

and refining—West Indies, British. I. Title.

F2131 .D8 2000 972.9'3—dc2i 99-089856

04 03 02     5 4 3 2

For Mary

Contents

Foreword by Gary B. Nash

Preface

Abbreviations

1 Beyond the Line

2 Barbados: The Rise of the Planter Class

3 Barbados: The Planters in Power

4 The Leeward Islands

5 Jamaica

6 Sugar

7 Slaves

8 Life in the Tropics

9 Death in the Tropics

10 The Legacy

Index

Illustrations

Modern Map of the West Indies / page xxii

Figure 1. Map of St. Christopher, 1654 12

Figure 2. Two Views of Montserrat, 1673 13

Figure 3. Edward Slaney's Map of Jamaica, 1678 / page 37

Figure 4. Richard Ligon's Map of Barbados, c. 1650 / page 63

Figure 5. Detail from Richard Ford's Map of Barbados, c. 1674 / page 94

Figure 6. Detail from Charles Bochart and Humphrey Knollis's Map of Jamaica, 1684 / page 173

Figure 7. Sugar Making in the Seventeenth Century / page 193

Figure 8. Another Early View of Sugar Making / page 199

Figure 9. Slaves Preparing Cassava Flour and Tobacco / page 274

Figure 10. West Indian Insects and Reptiles / page 304

Tables

1. London Emigrants to America, 1635 / 56

2. The Labor Force on Fifteen Barbados Plantations, 1640-1667 / 68

3. Servants Shipped from Bristol to America, 1654-1686 / 70

4. Barbados Population Estimates, 1655-1715 / 87

5. Summary of the Barbados Census, 1680 / 88

6. Classification of the Barbados Property Holders / 91

7. The Big Barbados Planters’ Share of Property, 1680 / 96

8. Officeholding in Barbados, 1680 / 99

9. Family Structure in Bridgetown (Barbados) and Bristol (Plymouth) / 107

10. Children per Family: Bristol versus Bridgetown / 109

11. Destinations of 593 Persons Leaving Barbados, 1679 / 111

12. Population of the Leeward Islands, 1678 / 127

13. Social Structure in Nevis and Barbados, 1678-1680 / 129

14. Population Changes in the Leeward Islands, 1678-1708 / 141

15. The Rise of the Planter Class in St. Mary Parish, Antigua, 1688-1767 / 143

16. Growth of Jamaica's Population, 1661-1673 / 155

17. Jamaican Agriculture in 1671 and 1684 / 169

18. The Property of 198 Jamaica Planters, 1674-1701 / 171

19. St. John Parish, Jamaica, in 1680 / 174

20. Port Royal versus Bridgetown, 1680 / 180

21. Estimated Sugar Imports (in Tons) to England, 1651-1706 / 203

22. Estimated English Slave Imports, 1640-1700 / 230

23. Slaves Delivered by the Royal African Company, 1673-1711, and by Private Traders, 1698-1707 / 234

24. Distribution of Wealth in Jamaica and Maryland / 266

25. Summary of the Jamaica Inventories, 1674-1701 / 267

26. Estimated Population of the English Sugar Islands, 1660-1713 / 312

27. Sex and Age Distribution of West Indian Slaves, 1673-1708 / 316

28. Age of 574 St. Christopher Slaves, 1706 / 318

29. Occupations of 450 St. Christopher Slaves, 1706 / 319

30. Sex and Age Distribution of the White Population in the English Islands, 1662-1720 / 327

31. Sex and Age of the White Population in Barbados, 1715 / 332

Graph 1. Fluctuations in the Slave Population at Bybrook Plantation, Jamaica, 1691-1709 / 321

Foreword

Twenty-eight years after its original publication, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 is still the best place to begin a study of slavery in the British West Indies. In addition, by providing a vivid account of early Caribbean slavery, it provides essential benchmarks for understanding what was different about slavery in England's North American colonies. The book has rewarded readers for many years because, like all lasting historical scholarship, it is an amalgam of deep archival research, methodological ingenuity, new perspectives, and literary grace. Happily, this reissue of the book will bring it before a new generation of readers.

Sugar and Slaves is a brilliant depiction of the outlaw English planters who came to the Caribbean in the early seventeenth century. Because they were the first English colonizers to build an economy on African slave labor, their history provides a comparative perspective on the origins of slavery in England's mainland colonies. Writing at the beginning of the social history tectonic plate shift of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Richard Dunn takes the reader inside the tropical island plantation world where displaced Africans and English colonists built a tobacco and sugar economy that mocked all that the English believed their culture stood for. The book begins in 1624, when the English gained their Caribbean foothold on the tiny island of St. Christopher. From that lonely outpost emerged a cohesive and potent master class of tobacco and sugar planters that spread to Barbados, Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua, and Jamaica. The book vividly portrays how the English planters created a living hell in a Caribbean Garden of Eden and how they accommodated themselves to the human wreckage involved in turning the islands into highly successful sugar-producing colonies.

The foreword has been adapted from an earlier essay, The Work of Richard Dunn, Pennsylvania History 64 (Summer 1997): 11-25, with permission of Pennsylvania History.

Dunn did not intend to write this book when he went to London in 1962 to work at the Public Record Office on a book concerning the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Encountering a voluminous body of material on the early English colonies in the tropical West Indies, he shelved his Glorious Revolution project and threw in his lot with one of the most dynamic and important fields to emerge in the last half-century—the study of slavery in the Western Hemisphere. Sipping his pints at the Queen's Parlor near the Public Record Office, Dunn turned into a social historian. He announces this conversion in the preface to Sugar and Slaves, calling the book a social history and speaking of the social historian's search for elusive documentary evidence on the shadowy and half-forgotten English planters who came out to the islands and on the Africans by the hundreds of thousands who made their white owners the richest men in British America. This entry into slave studies has now occupied Dunn for more than thirty years.

Fully understanding Sugar and Slaves requires some appreciation of its methodology. When Dunn wrote the book three decades ago, he became part of the first cadre of American social historians taking cues from the illuminating power of family reconstitution, demographic analysis, and social structure studies, as pioneered by the French and English historians of the post-World War II period. New sources had to be ferreted out and analyzed with techniques not then taught in graduate school. Devouring path-breaking community studies on both sides of the Atlantic, Dunn searched out in London and the West Indies the unexamined sources from which a composite portrait of Caribbean colonial life could be created: passenger lists, estate inventories, tax lists, war compensation claims, early censuses, militia lists, parish records, land warrants, customs ledgers, and plantation records. Almost all colonial historians of Dunn's generation were schooled in analyzing literary sources, mostly penned by the uppermost members of society, and this made social history research frustrating, eye-straining, and often inconclusive—but also intriguing and exhilarating. Like moths drawn to the flame, the early social historians were seeking illumination but risking incineration.

In researching Sugar and Slaves, Dunn was faced with a far more formidable task than that confronting the New England social historians whose community studies were emerging in the early 1970s. Kenneth Lockridge's study of tiny Dedham, for example, is based almost entirely on four conveniently collected volumes of town and church records.¹ By contrast, Dunn's study of the rise of the sugar planters on six British West Indian islands is painstakingly researched in far-flung and discouragingly incomplete records. The book, in sum, is a methodological tour de force.

In painting a convincing portrait when only some of the pieces of the canvas are available — always the case in studies of slave societies—literary finesse is the historian's best friend. Dunn's formidable descriptive power and carefully crafted language are part of what makes this book so compelling, as well as readable. For example, at the beginning of the book Dunn writes crisply that the Englishmen who settled in the islands were not mythmakers in the heroic vein of Capt. John Smith, John Winthrop, or William Penn. They did not attempt calypso-style Holy Experiments, nor did they build palm-fringed Cities on a Hill. The most famous seventeenth-century Englishman in the Caribbean was Sir Henry Morgan, the buccaneer, which is rather like having A1 Capone as the most famous American of the twentieth century (xxiii).

Explaining how the English adapted painfully to the strange new tropical world they struggled to control, Dunn tells us:

Seventeenth-century Englishmen attuned their lives to the weather, to seasonal change, and to the annual cycle of birth, growth, maturity, and death. But in the West Indies, they found a year-round growing season, year-round summer, and year-round heat. They were used to a moderate climate: moderately warm, moderately cold, moderately rainy, moderately sunny. But in the tropics they had to adjust their eyes to brilliant sunlight, and a palette of splashing colors: vegetation startlingly green, fruits and flowers in flaming reds and yellows, the mountains in shimmering blues and greens, shading to deep purple, the moon and stars radiant and sparkling at night, and the encircling sea a spectrum of jeweled colors form cobalt to silver. They found the Caribbean atmosphere to be volatile: blazing heat suddenly relieved by refreshing showers, and soft caressing breezes capriciously dissolving into wild and terrifying storms. In climate, as in European power politics, the Indies lay beyond the line. (40)

At the end of Sugar and Slaves, Dunn's stylistic deftness and eye for the paradoxical make the reader think broadly about the English colonizers who did not go to Virginia or Massachusetts or Pennsylvania. He writes:

Despite … close contacts, the islanders rapidly diverged from the mainlanders, most particularly from the Puritan colonists in New England…. The New Englanders, through their numerous elective offices and frequent town meetings, encouraged (indeed almost required) every inhabitant to participate in public life, but in the Indies the big sugar planters completely dominated politics…. In New England the young were deferential to their elders, repressed their adolescent rebelliousness, and often waited into their thirties to marry and set up on their own, while in the islands there were no elders, the young were in control, and many a planter made his fortune and died by age thirty. In short, the Caribbean and New England planters were polar opposites; they represented the outer limits of English social expression in the seventeenth century. (337-38)

Dunns eye for the paradoxical, the bittersweet, and the downright grim, ugly, and tragic is apparent in Sugar and Slaves. At the book's beginning, Dunn explains how the pioneering English planters made their beautiful islands almost uninhabitable (xxiii). Midway through his story, he expresses his dismay that from New England to Virginia to Jamaica, the English planters in seventeenth-century America developed the habit of murdering the soil for a few quick crops and then moving along. On the sugar plantations, unhappily, they also murdered the slaves (223). Most tragic is his exacting account of how English colonizers turned their small islands into amazingly effective sugar-production machines, manned by armies of black slaves (xxi) and how this altered English behavior, values, and ideas. In Dunn's hands, this is a depressing story of human degradation, of the brutalization of Africans, and of the self-brutalization of the English planters and overseers. The English sugar islands, Dunn tells us, were disastrous social failures by the early eighteenth century (340), and he barely withholds his scorn for the sugar planters.

It is revealing to compare Sugar and Slaves with Edmund Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom.² Both Dunn and Morgan were known first as gifted historians of Puritan New England, and both turned from the literary sources on which Puritan scholarship was built to the records from which social history is now constructed. For both, asking questions about the character of life at the bottom of society altered their understanding of the motive forces shaping history. Turning from free- to slave-labor societies, both delineated themes, interpreted human behavior, and reached conclusions that made them seem like closet Marxists. Sugar and tobacco production, they explained, developed hand-in-hand with coerced and degraded labor: grasping for wealth, profit-maximizing English planters relentlessly sought overseas markets, ruthlessly exploited fellow humans, accumulated narrowly concentrated power, and resonated very little to liberal ideas and higher values. Both of their books, dealing with class formation and class tension, have a tone of moral outrage at the behavior of the storied freedom-loving English adventurers in the raw Darwinian colonies they constructed. Dunn gloomily ends Sugar and Slaves by concluding: The stark dichotomy between the all-powerful sugar magnate and his abject army of black bondsmen was the ultimate expression in seventeenth-century English society of man's strenuous search for wealth in an era of primitive productive techniques (341).

What of the power of ideas? In his chapter titled Life in the Tropics, Dunn struggles to show how inherited ideas and values continued to matter in the British Caribbean—but only in limited ways. In their basic living arrangements—food, clothing, and shelter—the early settlers, he explains, hung on to English customs (264). But in this persistence Dunn sees only cultural stubbornness or stupidity in clinging to English habits that ill suited the tropics. They foolishly wore cool-weather garb, ate the wrong food, and built houses absurdly. In all other matters, the English planters tragically abandoned what might have rescued them from the human wreckage they were creating: they turned their backs on the idea of representative assemblies in order to convert the assemblies into platforms for the master class, sabotaged the militia system because it interfered with sugar production, muzzled religion in order to prevent slave unrest, made common law a mockery by withholding due process from three-fourths of the population, and scoffed at education.

At the outset, Dunn imagined his book as mainly a study of the English planter class. Yet in the course of studying plantation records, data on sugar and tobacco exports, and literary sources revealing planter attempts to control the newly formed slave societies, he was led inexorably to the enslaved Africans themselves. Though thwarted by the limited evidence on how the blacks themselves reacted to their treatment by the island planters (xxiv), he found a wealth of material disclosing slave conditions and slave revolts on the English Caribbean islands. For example, his comparative analysis of slave revolts in Barbados and Jamaica is very instructive, focusing on the far greater chance of their succeeding on the north coast of Jamaica than in Barbados, Virginia, Maryland, or other English colonies where geographical conditions discouraged or thwarted African rebels. This judgment, contrary to that of Orlando Patterson, whose book on Jamaican slavery appeared as Dunn was finishing his study, has stood up to the present.³

Given the absence of the kind of sources that are available for later eras — slave narratives, detailed plantation records, and the like—Dunn was able only to begin the process of restoring to memory the lives of the enslaved Africans who made their English masters wealthy. Yet he briefly treats African cultural retentions in the West Indies—language, religion, family structure, and names — and he lays the foundations for studying the inner lives of slaves. In his memorable chapter Death in the Tropics, he exhibits his skills (later to be sharpened) as a demographic historian by isolating two key factors that dealt out death and impeded fertility so differently in the island and mainland slave populations: first, the especially lethal disease environment in the tropics; second the extraordinarily brutal slaveowners who directed a uniquely punishing crop regimen. Philip Curtin's The Atlantic Slave Trade, published three years before Sugar and Slaves, had noted the huge contrast between the natural increase of British slaves in North America and the demographic disaster of slaves nearly everywhere in the tropics, whether their masters were English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, or Dutch.⁴ But Curtin had not explored the causes, mentioning only the possible factor of tropical disease. Dunn, along with James Walvin and Michael Craton in their studies of Worthy Park, a large Jamaican sugar plantation, nailed down the reasons for the disaster.⁵ By the early 1970s, Dunn was on his way to a comparative study of African enslavement in mainland and island British America. In a series of essays published over the last two decades, he has used two extraordinary sets of plantation records, each covering more than a century, to compare slave lives in Virginia and Jamaica.⁶

Dunn's analysis of the heartless sugar system in the West Indies swam against the tide of emerging scholarship—what might be called the story of the heroic enslaved African. Sugar and Slaves was published before Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll, John Blassingame's The Black Community, and Herbert Gutman's The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom.⁷ Hence Dunn was not in a position to address their arguments about the resilience of enslaved Africans, African inventiveness in creating new cultural forms, and the near-heroic maintenance of slave family structure. His analysis of African slavery, of course, is about the British Caribbean, but nonetheless it rubs uneasily against the new slavery paradigm constructed in the 1970s and 1980s that gives far more agency to the slaves than Dunn allows.

In Sugar and Slaves (and in subsequent essays), Dunn argues that, in the main, enslaved Africans lived unspeakably difficult lives, dying prematurely, struggling futilely to resist brutalization, and in the end awaiting deliverance at the hands of their oppressors. While never subscribing fully to Stanley Elkins's thesis that the crushing brutality of slavery in the English colonies numbed slaves into becoming Sambos, Dunn traffics little with the idea of a slave community that became popular in the 1970s and 1980s.⁸ Mostly he stresses how white brutality thwarted black ambition and achievement. In his essays since the first publication of Sugar and Slaves, he has not strayed from his conclusion that slave systems, whatever the religion and nationality of the masters, whatever the region or crop regimen, afforded little opportunity for coerced Africans to achieve very much or to rebel very effectively. An outpouring of scholarship on West Indian and mainland slavery has mostly confirmed this view.

The question of overt slave resistance is central to this argument about the semi-autonomous roles played by enslaved Africans. The acid test of any slave system, writes Dunn, is the frequency and ferocity of resistance by slaves (256). However, even in Jamaica, Britain's most rebellious colony, African insurrectionists had little effect in bringing an end to slavery. Much more important in destabilizing the British death-dealing sugar economy were hurricanes, earthquakes, malaria epidemics, and French marauders. Ironically, Dunn notes, the English planters, who treated their slaves with such contemptuous inhumanity, were rescued time and again from disaster by the compassionate generosity of the Negroes (262).

Considering today's strenuous debates over the objectivity question, a final note is warranted on Dunn's value judgments in Sugar and Slaves. Subtly threaded through Dunn's Sugar and Slaves is a quality that must be called moral. It appears in rueful comments, in wordplay signaling a raised eyebrow, in suggestive juxtapositions of material, and occasionally in passages expressing righteous outrage. Though a thoroughly professional historian with a decent respect for impartiality, Dunn is impatient with man's inhumanity to man, with unconscionable behavior, and quite pointedly with the massive contradictions of freedom-loving English planters creating hell on earth for Africans. The grandson and son of Presbyterian ministers, the nephew of Congregationalist and Episcopalian preachers, the descendent of Ulster immigrants to East New Jersey in the 1680s, Dunn has channeled his family's moral temperament into an academic career. There is hardly such a thing as a notable historian who is not a passionate historian. Dunn is both.

Gary B. Nash

University of California, Los Angeles

Notes

1. Kenneth Lockridge, A New England Town: The First Hundred Years (New York: W. W. Norton, 1970).

2. Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975).

3. Orlando Patterson, The Sociology of Slavery: An Analysis of the Origins, Development and Structure of Negro Slave Society in Jamaica (London: McGibbon & Kee, 1967).

4. Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969).

5. Michael Craton and James Walvin, A Jamaican Plantation: The History of Worthy Park, 1670-1970 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970); James Walvin, Searching for the Invisible Man: Slaves and Plantation Life in Jamaica (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978).

6. A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life at Mesopotamia in Jamaica and Mount Airy in Virginia, 1799-1828, William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 34 (1977): 32-65; Masters, Servants, and Slaves in the Colonial Chesapeake and the Caribbean, in Early America in a Wider World, ed. David B. Quinn (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982), 242-66; ‘Dreadful Idlers’ in the Cane Fields: The Slave Labor Pattern on a Jamaican Sugar Estate, 1762-1831, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17 (1987): 795-822; Sugar Production and Slave Women in Jamaica, in Cultivation and Culture: Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas, ed. Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 49-72; Moravian Missionaries at Work in a Jamaican Slave Community, 1754-1835 (Minneapolis: Associates of the James Ford Bell Library, 1994); The Story of Two Jamaican Slaves: Sarah Affir and Robert McAlpine of Mesopotamia Estate, in Caribbean Accounts: Essays on the British West Indies and the Atlantic Economy, ed. Roderick A. McDonald (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 1996), 188-210; After Tobacco: The Slave Labour Pattern on a Large Chesapeake Grain-and-Livestock Plantation in the Early Nineteenth Century, in The Early Modern Atlantic Economy, ed. John McCusker and Kenneth Morgan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

7. Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World That Slaves Made (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974); John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); Herbert G. Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976).

8. Stanley Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959).

Preface

This book is about those other English colonists who came to America in the seventeenth century, the ones who chose the Caribbean islands rather than the mainland, who settled in St. Christopher in 1624, Barbados in 1627, Nevis in 1628, Montserrat and Antigua in the 1630s, and Jamaica in 1655. Today these tropical adventurers are seldom mentioned in the same breath with the founding fathers of Virginia and Massachusetts. It is easy to forget that they were members of the same migration as the first Chesapeake and New England colonists, that they settled in the New World at the same time, in the same numbers, for many of the same reasons. They employed similar colonizing techniques and shared similar colonizing experiences. Tobacco was initially the staple crop in Barbados and the Leeward Islands as in Virginia and Maryland. Puritans and Quakers came to the Indies as to New England and Pennsylvania. Imperial strategists planned the seizure of Jamaica as of New York. The islanders established the same institutional arrangements as in North America: each colony was administered by a governor, council, and representative assembly, with parish churches, vestrymen, and justices of the peace at the local level, and a militia for protection. And yet—inexorably and very rapidly—the island and mainland plantations evolved into two separate communities.

Once the English colonists in the Caribbean learned how to grow and process sugarcane in the 1640s, they developed a life-style all their own. They turned their small islands into amazingly effective sugar-production machines, manned by armies of black slaves. They became far richer than their cousins in the North American wilderness. They lived fast, spent recklessly, played desperately, and died

Map by Richard J. Stinely. (Adapted from an endsheet in Richard Pares, Yankees and Creoles: The Trade between North America and the West Indies before the American Revolution [Cambridge, Mass., 1956]’, courtesy of Longman Group Limited of Great Britain.)

young. And although they persuaded the merchants and politicians at home that the sugar colonies were more valuable than the North American colonies, they could not persuade themselves to live in the Indies any longer than necessary. Indeed, they made their beautiful islands almost uninhabitable. By the close of the century, when Englishmen in the mainland colonies were turning into Americans, Englishmen in the islands had one consuming ambition—to escape home to England as fast as possible.

These sugar planters of the seventeenth century have become shadowy and half-forgotten men. They never wrote much about themselves—not caring to advertise their newfound wealth to the inquisitive authorities at home—and they have left few tangible remains in the islands. Hurricanes have obliterated nearly all of the old plantation houses with their furnishings, as well as the old churches, sugar works, and slave huts. The island towns have changed beyond recognition. Bridgetown in Barbados has been rebuilt repeatedly, thanks to a long series of disastrous fires and storms, and the old buccaneering capital of Port Royal in Jamaica lies thirty feet under water, thanks to the great earthquake of 1692. The books and papers belonging to the early planters have been rotted by tropical heat and devoured by vermin. Even their tombs are more likely to be found in London or Bath than in the island churchyards.

The Englishmen who settled in the islands were not mythmakers in the heroic vein of Capt. John Smith, John Winthrop, or William Penn. They did not attempt calypso-style Holy Experiments, nor did they build palm-fringed Cities on a Hill. The most famous seventeenth-century Englishman in the Caribbean was Sir Henry Morgan, the buccaneer, which is rather like having Al Capone as the most famous American of the twentieth century. Yet Morgan was perhaps the most authentic hero the English islands produced, for he and his daredevil companions spent their time attacking the proud Spanish foe, while the sugar planters of Barbados, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands were busily exploiting their African slaves —a point not forgotten in these islands, which are 95 percent black today.

It is a shabby task in many ways, yet an illuminating one, to tell what these English sons of Adam did to the Garden of Eden islands they discovered and what the islands did to them. This book asks three principal questions: how did the early English planters in the West Indies respond to the novelty of life in the tropics? to the novelty of large-scale sugar production? and to the novelty of slave labor? The island planters, like their cousins in North America, were very conscious of the strange climate, strange food, and strange diseases they encountered, and it is worth asking how resourceful and resilient they were in adapting English habits to suit their tropical environment. They tried many ways of making money in the Caribbean, and it is worth examining why they concentrated so heavily on sugar and how they operated their plantations. They were the first Englishmen to employ massive numbers of African slaves, and their experience with Negroes is especially interesting because it tells something of the colonists’ initial racial attitude and helps to explain the origin of the slave system in the Southern mainland colonies. To see how the blacks themselves reacted to their treatment by the island planters is scarcely possible, given the nature of the surviving evidence, yet there is a good deal of revealing information about slave conditions and slave revolts in the English Caribbean during the seventeenth century. Quite apart from the topic of slavery, there is special reason for the student of American colonial history to examine the social structure of the West Indian colonies. Economically interdependent, the two sections of English America were always in close touch down to 1775. During the seventeenth century, in particular, thousands of island colonists migrated to the mainland plantations. Study of the islanders’ social milieu suggests who these migrants were, why they left, and what habits they brought with them to the mainland.

When I began to prepare this book, I wondered whether it would be possible to write the social history of the seventeenth-century West Indian pioneers, a people who left little literary evidence, who published no newspapers or almanacs or sermons, kept few diaries, left no attic trunks full of private papers—or much personal memorabilia of any sort. I was spoiled by having spent too much time in the company of the early New England Puritans, who wrote almost too much about themselves and preserved every laundry list for posterity. But it turned out that the inarticulate islanders had left more evidence than I had supposed.

There are several vivid contemporary travelers’ accounts of life on the islands, including one—John Taylor's Baedeker-like description of Jamaica in 1688—that is still in manuscript. There are some excellent estate records of seventeenth-century sugar plantations, though many fewer than for the next century. Early maps of the English islands are exceedingly informative, not least because they often locate and identify the chief plantations. Numerous contemporary lists of passengers to the islands, indentured servants, convict laborers, militiamen, landholders, merchants, slave masters, taxpayers, officeholders, Jews, and Quakers—many thousand names in all—make it possible to reconstruct, at least partially, the rise of the planter class. Amongst the volumes of West Indian laws, sessional papers, and official correspondence housed in the Public Record Office in London there is material of great value to the social historian, such as the complete census returns for Barbados in 1680 and 1715 or the itemized compensation claims filed by the planters on St. Christopher after the French plundered their island in 1706. Last but not least, in such island depositories as the Jamaica Archives, the Jamaica Registry Office, the Institute of Jamaica, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, and the Barbados Archives there is a mass of genealogical data that tells us a good deal about seventeenth-century family life and social structure—volumes of wills, inventories, deeds, land patents, vestry books, and parish registers. Social historians are currently quantifying this sort of documentation in order to discover the exact population pattern and familial structure of sample seventeenth-century English villages and New England towns. Unfortunately, the West Indian historian cannot do this, at least for the seventeenth century: his data are far too fragmentary, too unreliable, for precise demographic analysis. In many respects the early social pattern in Barbados, the Leeward Islands, and Jamaica remains illusive and mysterious. But something can be attempted, and in the following pages I will try to shape the miscellaneous evidence described above into a composite portrait of English life in the Caribbean three centuries ago.

I am deeply indebted to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Pennsylvania for grants that enabled me to spend a year in England and to make three trips to the West Indies collecting materials for this book. Clinton V. Black of the Jamaica Archives, Philip Mayes of the Port Royal archeological project, C. Bernard Lewis of the Institute of Jamaica, and Neville Connell of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society assisted me very generously; they made my visits extraordinarily pleasant and profitable. Jeannette D. Black of the John Carter Brown Library has helped me with early maps of the islands, and Barnes F. Lathrop of the University of Texas, as literary executor to the late J. Harry Bennett, kindly loaned me microfilm from Bennett's collection. Professor Bennett was the pioneer in this field; had he lived longer, he would have written his own social history of the seventeenth-century English sugar islands, and I like to think of my work as in some sense a completion of his labors and a memorial to a fine historian. Other colleagues are becoming increasingly interested in the early history of the English islands; Carl Bridenbaugh and Richard B. Sheridan are each bringing out their own studies of the English Caribbean planters. I have profited greatly from exchanges of information and ideas with Professors Bridenbaugh and Sheridan, and I trust that the appearance of our three very different books will focus attention on a grossly neglected field. I also wish to thank Michael Craton, Stephen S. Webb, Mrs. Davis G. Durham, Otis P. Starkey, A. P. Thornton, Jack P. Greene, Peter Wood, Kenneth Lockridge, Jessica and Allen Ehrlich, Edwin Wolf 2nd, and Howard H. Peckham for helping me in various ways. My colleagues and students at Penn have patiently heard more than they cared to know about the sugar islands. James H. Hutson and Joy Dickinson Barnes have been wonderfully expeditious editors, and my other friends at the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Stephen G. Kurtz and Thad Tate, have encouraged me to get on with the job. Heidi Herrmann has done yeoman service preparing the manuscript. And my wife, Mary Maples Dunn, has helped me more than everyone else combined; this book is for her, with love.

Abbreviations

Sugar and Slaves

1 Beyond the Line

On May 22, 1631, a doughty gentleman from Essex named Sir Henry Colt boarded the ship Alexander at Weymouth in Dorset and began to keep a journal.¹ He was taking some servants to start a plantation in the island of St. Christopher,² which the English had begun to settle seven years before. Colt's pithy and detailed journal provides the best firsthand account we have of the infant English settlements in the West Indies. Aboord we are, he writes. Neyther doe we loose time, for we presently weigh Anchor, hoyse upp our sayles, puttinge ourselves to sea, takinge our Course South South West, alongst our English Chanell. On the second day out Sir Henry took his last sight of England, the Lizard in Cornwall, as his ship bore south toward the Bay of Biscay and the tropics.

Colt had equipped his party with enough food and drink to last the voyage and enough clothing and tools to last for a year or so once they reached America. He furnished his cabin in the Alexander with bedding, table linen, eating utensils, a stewing pan, wax lights, and a chamber pot. He tried sleeping in a hammock, but found that he got too cold and could not roll over, so he switched to a flock bed. He discarded his doublet, the quilted jacket worn by English gentlemen of the day, because it rotted in the humid heat, but the costume he says he wore still seems rather elaborate for a sojourn in the tropics: a long-sleeved shirt reaching to the knees, a suit of jerkin and hose (that is, a sleeveless jacket and puffed knee breeches), a handkerchief around the neck, a feathered hat, beads, boot hose, stockings, and shoes. Black shoes turned moldy in the Indies, so Sir Henry wore russet-colored shoes, and he brought a dozen pairs since shoes wore out fast. During the sea voyage he always wore a stomacher—the seventeenth-century equivalent of a sweater—to guard against the wind. On shipboard he and his men ate a monotonous diet of broth, porridge, pudding, bread, boiled biscuit, raisins, and cheese. They had a little fresh and salted meat, but ate sparingly of it. They drank brandy, wine, and herb-flavored hott waters. Colt's liquor barrels were double-casked to prevent the sailors from tapping them.

The Alexander was armed with sixteen guns, but the danger of attack was so great that the captain formed sixty of the male passengers into squads of musketeers. She was a tightly run ship, with public prayers held three times daily, at ten in the morning, four in the afternoon, and eight at night. The godly, disciplined atmosphere on board sounds surprisingly similar to that described by John Winthrop in his journal one year before, when he sailed on the Arbella to Massachusetts. On Winthrop's puritanical ship, incidentally, there was considerable filching from the liquor barrels.

Like every transatlantic passenger in the seventeenth century, Sir Henry Colt found his voyage tediously long. Suerly the Journye is great, he protested in midpassage, and further by a 1000 miles then ever I supposed itt to be. The sea route from England to the Caribbean was in fact longer than to New England, but sailing ships generally covered the distance more quickly because they took advantage of the constant trade wind blowing toward the Indies. The Alexander, like practically all European sailing ships destined for the Caribbean, followed the route first charted by Christopher Columbus. She worked south past Portugal, Madeira, and the Canaries, picked up the trade wind, and headed west across the Atlantic. As his ship sailed south and west, Colt soon saw porpoises and grampuses, then flying fish and dolphins tinted with azure and gold, and beyond the Tropic of Cancer we meet with the first Tropick birds, In colour, winges, flyinge not unlike our English swallowes but 4 times bigger and some are white. He complained of skimpy breezes, like the languishinge motions of a dyinge man, but when the wind blew strong the Alexander ran ten leagues a watch, or 180 miles a day.

When they reached the latitude of Barbados, their first port of call, they had difficulty in reckoning their exact longitude, but knew that they could not be far from the island, the easternmost in the Caribbean. Barbados has a lower silhouette than most of the islands in the Indies and lies apart from its neighbors, ninety miles east of the main series of islands in the Lesser Antilles. Or as Sir Henry Colt puts it, Barbados is like sixpence throwne downe uppon newmarkett heath. Throughout the century sailors had trouble finding it. In 1630, Colt tells us, many ships sailed past it by mistake, and once to the leeward of any Caribbean island a sailing ship had great difficulty in beating back against the wind. Thus the Alexander tacked warily for several days. In the small hours of the morning on July 1, a lookout in the forecastle cried Land! Colt could see nothing in the darkness and longed for daylight like the woman with childe for her good howre. When day broke at last he was startled to find, less than a mile away, a white line of breakers, sand, and rocks, with wooded land rising steeply beyond. It was the craggy eastern coast of Barbados. Forty days had passed since they embarked from Weymouth, very good time by seventeenth-century standards, and not one passenger sick, which was almost miraculous.

Sir Henry stayed two weeks in Barbados while the Alexander took in some passengers and a cargo of fustic (a dyewood) and tobacco. The English had occupied this island for only four years in 1631, and their plantations were raw and straggling. Nevertheless Colt—like most subsequent visitors—was captivated by the place: For to confesse truely all the Hands that I have passed by and seen unto this day, not any pleaseth me soe well. He found no Indians and few species of wild animals on Barbados. The island was full of wild hogs, delicious to eat, which the planters were slaughtering at a terrific rate. They caught fish of many sizes and shapes in their nets, and some of Colt's fellow passengers went fishing at midnight. Colt liked stewed turtle: The tast is between fish and flesh of veale. He disliked the sultry heat and daily summer showers and detested the stinging gnats and black ants. Squeaky lizards and other creatures cried strangely at night, pale yellow land crabs nipped his legs, great-throated pelicans nested in the trees, and turtle doves singe us musick dayly into our shipp. What struck him most forcibly was the exotic tropical vegetation. Barbados was less densely forested than the other islands, but everything sprouted phenomenally fast and luxuriantly. Figs, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, pineapples, prickly pears, peppers, papayas, soursop, watermelons, muskmelons, guavas, plantains, cassava, cloves, and cinnamon were all growing on the island when Colt was there, and timber trees included cedar, locust, mastic, and fustic exported for dyestuff. The palmito tree, he reported, carryes his leaf like a ladyes skreen fann, or peacocks tayle, the fruit like a cabbidge but better.

Colt had many tart things to say about the English planters on Barbados. He found them a quarrelsome, drunken, and idle set of young men. The drinking was prodigious, if Sir Henry can be believed. Imitating the planters’ bad example, he increased his liquor quota at meals from two to thirty drams! During his stay the Alexander was continually overrun by servants who came on board hoping to escape from the island or at least to avoid laboring in the fields. It took a full day to clear all visitors off the ship before she could set sail. Colt claims that in ten days he never saw any man at work in Barbados and he saw little evidence of defense against Spanish attack. The Barbadians had a fort

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